Hydroponics: Not always Fun and Games

hydroponic mistakesMy posts so far have been the how tos and the success of growing so far. I may have led some to believe that it is a plant and forget type system of gardening but that is far from the case. While I do feel that it is easier then typical soil gardening and you definitely can get a higher yield in less space it is not without its problems and headaches. Let me go over a few things that have happened to me this past 2 months of hydroponic gardening.

A Few Issues and Mistakes

  • hydroponic flexible tubing

    flexible tubing – maybe not the best in the heat

    I jumped right in and built a couple aeroponic systems and over all it has given me the most success, with fast growing and early large vegetables. Aeroponics is also the hardest to maintain. The big thing is the nutrient salts clogging your sprayers so you will need to check them once in a while to clean or replace as needed.

  • Not to long ago we had a hot spell where it got into the 100’s out here and I didnt get out to the green house till late afternoon. When I did I found that the flexible hose I used as a supply line from the manifold to the buckets had heated up and sagged to the point that it wasn’t letting any water through on one of the buckets. This left the roots dry for to long and the plants just crumbled. I mean the leaves were so dry the broke apart in my hand. This was the baby cucumbers I had just started. Since then I moved the manifold to the back of the buckets enabling a shorter supply line and no kinks possible. I still am thinking of going to all hard pipe.
  • Inside my aeroponic buckets I used 1/2″ dripline curled up into a nice tight circle that fits snuggly into the bucket. Well when it gets hot and they warm up they tend to loseen a drop on one side. I need to put in a support for the side opposite the intake or maybe go to pvc.
  • On the same system I ended up with a leak that over night lowered the reservoir level below the pump line, again leaving roots dry. I didnt notice it till I saw the tomatoes drooping and then checked the reservoir. So now I check for leaks and reservoir levels at least twice if not three times during the hot days.
  • Think I mentioned on the aeroponic rail system that the roots of some of the plants got very big and were blocking the drain. This caused water levels to rise in the rail and draining to be very slow. This caused the reservoir level to go below the pump line for a bit so would stop pumping water to the other rails, also puts a burdan on the pump itself.
  • On two of the systems I made the drain line to small. Both are 3/4 and after observations they need to be at least 1″ to 1-1/4″. Its ok to have the drain out of each rail or bucket at this size but trying to feed several rails or buckets into a 3/4″ line back to the reservoir is causing it to back up. This in turns leads to slow drainage and lower reservoir levels as I mentioned above.

Even with all this issues I am still having great success in all the systems I built, producing a lot of yummy veggies. Well except one.

Strawberry Tower Issues

I have a post were I built a vertical tower which I decided to grow strawberries in. The tower itself works perfectly but the strawberries havent been to happy in it. I believe my first mistake here was I went straight to a bloom formula. I got the strawberries from the nursery and most had blooms already but they were still small plants, many started dying. I also had it to a constant pump running so I thought maybe that was to much for the berries, they dont like soaking roots I understand. The ones in the aero system, which is on a timer, is doing well so I put a timer on it for 15 on and 15 off. I also drained the bucket once I figured out about the nutrients and switched to a vegetation grow formula. Second mistake about to happen…

Damn Metric System

metric system

remember to convert!!

Almost all instructions for nutrients are stated in ml per liter. Some also give you a teaspoon per gallon in () next to it, this one didnt. So I proceeded to follow the instructions not doing the conversion in my head and needed up putting way to much in there! Once I realized this and kicked myself a couple times I drained some off (put into another system) and diluted it a bit with more water. With the cost of this stuff I didnt want to waste it so I just waited to see what would happen. So far it appears a few of the plants are coming back, some are lost for good, so I will continue and see how things go with them. Worse case I just start over, gardening is a live and learn process like everything else.


I mention all these things not to scare you away from hydroponics but to let you learn from my mistakes so hopefully your start will be smoother. I still enjoy gardening this way and wont give up hydroponics. For me it is still easier than soil and as I get better at it I can see less headaches than soil as well. I still don’t have to pull weeds and have had virtually no bug problems. We also have been enjoying meals from our harvest before most people I know with soil gardens. So I encourage anyone that is slightly interested to take up hydroponics. I have even start indoor systems lately 🙂

oh by the way it’s 4-5ml=1 teaspoon

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